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The third breakfast symposium under the Homeownership: A Benchmark for a Vital Community banner was held on Thursday, November 29, 2007 at Benedictine University. Over 150 lenders, Realtors, government officials, builders, architects, civic leaders and affordable housing advocates met to discuss the economic imperative of providing affordable housing so that individuals and families can live in the communities where they work.
A number of speakers including U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-13), DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom and others challenged the group to find creative ways to develop affordable housing and offered several milestone achievements.
Debra Olson, DuPage County Board member and DHOC president, gave an overview of earlier efforts that defined the barriers and challenges at the 2005 Symposium, and developed specific plans to address these issues at the 2006 event with an overarching goal to spur the development of affordable starter homes in DuPage County.
As co-chairs of a steering committee that is providing direction and oversight to the implementation of these efforts, Erin Vaughan, ARAMARK, and Dave Faganel, R.A. Faganel Builders reported on the positive progress volunteers have achieved since last year’s gathering, including:
Thanks to the Northeast Chapter of the American Institute of Architects two sessions, one in Wood Dale and one in Wheaton, were conducted this year. The local chapter chose the design charrettes as its signature project in celebration of AIA’s 150th anniversary.
At the request of Wood Dale city leaders, AIA Northeast Illinois members and community representatives brainstormed ideas for mixed-use, mixed-income redevelopment of a downtown site. The workshop provided an opportunity for an open discussion among all community stakeholders and resulted in four concepts that incorporated affordable condominiums, town homes and green space.
Another AIA facilitated design charrette was held in Wheaton to discuss options for the redevelopment of the downtown Hubble School Middle School site. Wheaton City Councilwoman Liz Corry was among the municipal leaders in support of this creative approach to getting community feedback in the development of affordable housing. A third AIA-charrette is planned for 2008.
With a goal to create the political will needed to implement change in perceptions about affordable housing, the Community Outreach Group developed a power point presentation and a Speakers Bureau to deliver a positive message to community leaders and civic groups. The group trained 15 speakers and delivered 21 presentations to more than 500 people and is actively looking for additional opportunities.
This group developed several tools to support workforce housing at the municipal level including an e-mail alert system to inform advocates when a meeting is taking place that could impact affordable housing. As a result of this outreach to elected officials, Pioneer Prairie, a Habitat for Humanity project, will develop 11 homes in West Chicago. Additionally, this tool was used to support a Community Housing Association of DuPage (CHAD) project that will be built in unincorporated Glen Ellyn with the approval of the DuPage County Board Development Committee. A Blue Ribbon Housing Award is being developed to reward municipalities that further affordable homeownership goals with positive recognition.
Working with county leaders, a developer created a model overlay zoning district for a CHAD townhome project to get a workforce housing project approved in unincorporated DuPage County. The development sits on approximately 1.75 acres and consists of 16 townhome units and is projected to sell in the low $200,000 price range.
The construction of a technical assistance bank is underway to serve as a repository for information on affordable housing best practices to help municipalities in their planning. It will be hosted on the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference web site.
A policy-makers panel, moderated by Carol Stream Village Manager Joe Breinig, and including Wheaton City Councilwoman Liz Corry, County Board member Kyle Gilgis, Wood Dale Mayor Kenneth Johnson and Downers Grove Commissioner William Waldack described significant initiatives toward affordable housing during the past year.
Kyle Gilgis, who headed the development committee that approved the CHAD townhome project, reiterated the economic cost to businesses when affordable, workforce housing is lacking and how the County is working to address this.
Both Wheaton and Downers Grove officials stated that they have adopted affordable housing as a priority for their communities. Wood Dale Mayor Johnson spoke with pride about the impact the AIA-design charrette is having as it addresses redevelopment issues.
Liz Corry said the issue of affordable housing has come to the forefront of the Wheaton municipal leadership. In fact, she stated she campaigned on the issue in her recent election.
Thanks to the generous support of the DuPage Community Foundation, the Homeownership: A Benchmark for A Vital Community effort will continue in 2008. The Foundation’s Associate Grants Coordinator, Julie Carlsen, presented a $20,000 Community Works grant to the DuPage Homeownership Center and a $15,000 grant to DuPage United.
Addressing the question of why the market isn’t working, Steve Hovany, president of Strategic Planning Associates, described several ways that public and private partnerships could encourage the development of affordable housing, such as reducing land costs, allowing higher densities and preserving the stock of existing affordable housing. According to Hovany, these initiatives would ensure that individuals who work as teachers, police officers, and other service sector jobs can afford to live in the communities they work.
Keynote speaker Steve Thornton, executive director of the Rochester Area Foundation, presented a case history of an initiative in his Minnesota community that addressed a growing workforce housing crisis. Working with major employers, such as Mayo Clinic, and municipal leaders, his organization established First Homes, a public-private collaborative that helps working families purchase new starter homes through a community land trust and a purchase rehab program that sells renovated single-family homes to income eligible individuals and families.
Energized by the progress to date and renewed by the ideas presented, symposium participants and leaders committed to continuing the efforts required to encourage the development of housing that will ensure the economic and social vitality of DuPage County.